Book Info: Fiction, Audiobook received for review from Simon & Schuster Audio. Running time: 8 hrs, 37 mins. Read by: Rebekkah Ross. Also available in HC, 512 pages from Atria Books.
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Shame on me for never having read an Ellen Hopkins book before! I’m so glad I finally remedied that with Collateral, a novel in verse about the effect the war has on soldiers and the loved ones they leave behind. It’s a heart-wrenching book that is hard to digest at times and the verse format makes the message resonate even more. The military theme is relevant and timely and I’m surprised we haven’t seen more books with this subject matter.
Collateral falls into the adult fiction category, but I read it thinking it was new adult and feel it fits that niche very well. There are definitely mature situations in terms of sex, drinking, and violence but nothing the new adult audience can’t handle. The characters are in their early twenties, in college, the workforce, and in the military. The book takes place over five years and four deployments, as we see the changes in Ashley and Cole individually and as a couple. The story alternates between the past and present throughout to give context to the relationship.
Ashley and her friend Darian are out in San Diego and meet two Marines. Ashley never thought she would fall for a soldier, but she has an immediate connection with Cole, and Darian and Spencer quickly become an item as well. They don’t get to see or talk to each other as often as they’d like considering the circumstances but try to make up for lost time when Cole is on leave. Cole and Ashley both write poetry and their poems are interspersed throughout the novel and further illustrate their state of mind.
It’s a hard road for Ashley as she misses Cole, and struggles to cope. Her commitment to the relationship is put to the test as the stresses put upon Cole and Ashley pull them further apart mentally as well as physically.
I listened to the audiobook of Collateral, narrated by Rebekkah Ross. This is my first experience with Ross as a narrator and I thought she did a great job connecting with the characters and conveying the appropriate tone. It was also my first time listening to a verse novel, though I love the format in print. Ideally I would have liked to have a copy in print to refer to to supplement the listening experience. Time jumps around a bit and sometimes that’s easier to follow in print, and I also wanted to see the verse in print as well. I have to say I was really hooked on the audio though and finished the 8.5-hour book in just a couple days.
Collateral is addictive and I was eager to get to the ending of Cole and Ashley’s story, and naturally due to the setting I was worried about how it would all turn out. The story had me on edge and fully absorbed. The book gave me a greater understanding of the sacrifices of everyone involved with the war effort, and I am in awe at Hopkins’ storytelling ability. Definitely looking forward to catching up on her other books. This is a good one for fans of heart-wrenching, meaty stories.